Ever wonder how someone on the Internet is able to tell where you are located when you visit their site? (You did know that people can tell where you are located, right?) It’s done by geolocation – geographic location – of your IP address. Now, granted, geolocation by IP address is only as good as the correlation between the IP address you are using and where you are, but for the most part that correlation is pretty high.
There are lots of services out there, primarily web statistics analysis services and tools, which make note of the location of your IP address. It’s generally not considered a privacy issue when used for general statistical analysis, such as “how many of the visitors to my website are from country X?” This may be important to know if you are running a website for, say, people visiting from country X.
But when it gets down to personal geolocation, people tend to feel a bit differently. When you are sitting in an apartment in Des Moines, and you go to a website and the page greets you with “Greetings visitor from Des Moines”, it can feel a little bit creepy.
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To get an idea of how easy this is, check out a geolocation services site called GeoBytes.com. There is both an IP address locator page which will show you exactly what information can be gleaned from your, yes your IP address, and a nifty flash demo which tells all about it.
Now that you know about geolocation by IP address, and how they do it, if you don’t like it, is there anything which you can do about it? Well, one thing you can do is to do your web surfing through an anonymizer service. These services basically let you use their IP addresses as proxies, so that your connection to the Internet is through their servers. One such service is the one offered by AnonyMouse.org. Aunty tried it for purposes of this article, and the geolocation service thought that Aunty was surfing in from Leipzig, Germany.
Whether or not you are concerned about sites using geolocation by IP address to determine where you are from, it’s a good thing to know about and understand how these technologies work. And now you know.
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